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Ski-lift fire kills 155
in Kaprun, Austria

Updated: November 19, 2000

(Note: The following article is out of date, but I've left it online for its historic value and as a memorial to the fire's victims.)

At least 155 skiers--and possibly more--were killed when a car of the Gletscherbahn Kaprun 2 funicular burst into flames above Kaprun, Austria on Saturday, November 11. The fire occurred inside a tunnel as the funicular hauled skiers toward the slopes of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier.

Another dozen skiers escaped by breaking a window with a ski.

Of the 155 known victims, most were from Austria and Germany--including a group of 32 Austrians from the town of Wels in Upper Austria. American, British, Czech, Dutch, Japanese, and Slovenian skiers were also reported killed on the first day of the Austrian ski season.

Salvage operations were hampered by smoke in the tunnel until late Sunday, more than 24 hours after the tragedy. The reason for the fire still isn't known.

The two cars of the Gletscherbahn Kaprun 2 funicular have safely transported millions of skiers and tourists from Kaprun valley to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier since 1974. The system was modernized in 1994 and passed a safety inspection in October of this year. It is believed to be the first funicular ski lift to operate primarily inside a mountain, with a tunnel making up 3500 meters of its 3900-meter length.

For more information on the tragedy and the funicular, visit the sites below.

Web links

BBC: How Could It Have Happened?
The British Broadcasting Corporation uses text and graphics to show how the fire might have occurred. Also see the BBC's photos of the tragedy and articles on other recent tunnel fires in Europe.

The ski resort's official Web site has the latest information on the fire and its aftermath, including an incomplete list of skiers and snowboarders who were in Kaprun at the time of the fire but were not victims. The site also has telephone numbers for the Kaprun telephone hotline and the Salzburg branch of the Austria Red Cross.

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